Marie Selby Botanical Gardens announced eight of Selby’s great-nephews and great-nieces support a controversial plan to redesign the bayfront campus.
Ahead of a September public hearing on a contentious proposal to redevelop the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens property, the organization has unveiled a new group backing the plans: Marie Selby’s family.
On Wednesday, Selby Gardens shared an endorsement letter from eight individuals identified as Marie Selby’s great-nieces and great-nephews. The signers identify themselves as Selby's “closest living relatives” and state they “strongly believe she would have been thrilled” by the Selby Gardens master plan.
“Marie Selby’s legacy was about saving as much Sarasota waterfront as possible and finding ways to make it as accessible as possible,” the letter states.
The plans have been the source of controversy since Selby Gardens unveiled them in 2017. Residents living near the property have objected to the size of a proposed five-story parking garage on the site and raised concerns about the $92 million project’s effects on traffic in the area.
Some of the project’s critics have suggested the master plan is not in keeping with Marie Selby’s vision for the property dedicated as a botanical garden after her death in 1971. In the letter, Selby’s relatives take issue with that line of reasoning.
“Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and as a trailblazing woman, Aunt Marie often shared hers,” the letter states. “But we respectfully request that community residents express their own personal opinions and not belittle Aunt Marie’s memory by implying that they know what she would or wouldn’t think.”
The letter is signed by Lawrence E. Zehring, Christine Zehring Schou, Robert A. Haynes III, David R. Haynes, Sarah Haynes Cowan, Richard B. Haynes, Diana Haynes Runyon and Michael R. Minshall. The letter states half of the signatories live in the area.
The city’s Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the master plan proposal Sept. 18.